By Erin Cabrey
New York City holds countless concerts every day of the week. That being said, performances like MisterWives’ at the Music Hall of Williamsburg are hard to find. The woman responsible for the vibrant and electric show is? Mandy Lee, lead singer of one of indie pop’s coolest new acts.
Her Own Way:
On a warm, sunny April afternoon, some friends and I made the pilgrimage to Brooklyn to see Misterwives put on a free concert sponsored by Steve Madden Music. The indie pop outfit’s song “Reflections” was a staple of my summer playlist last year, so I was beyond pumped to see them live.
Mandy Lee grabbed everyone’s attention. She stormed the stage and took her place behind her flower-covered microphone, clad in heart-adorned overall shorts and heart-spotted tights underneath. The moment I saw her hair in a bun mohawk reminiscent of Star Wars’ Rey, I could tell this concert was going to be nothing short of a feminist fiesta.
During the hour-long set, Lee tore across the stage, holding hands with the crowd (including the girl in front of me, who nearly burst into tears with excitement) and singing each song with unparalleled fervor. The crowd cheered passionately between songs; Lee began to tear up.
The set was filled with infectious songs about resilience and strength. The most prominent song in my mind was “Not Your Way,” a girl-power anthem (“This is my body, body and you don’t have a say, have a say”), which was so empowering it needed a kick line to close it out. The song, in combination with Lee’s warnings against misogynists in the presidential election, showed Lee taking full advantage of her role as front woman in a rising band.
The Rise of the Wives:
Mandy Lee, whose full name is Amanda Lee Duffy, is a Queens native. According to a 2015 interview with USA Today, Lee found interest in writing music from a songwriting class at LaGuardia High School. One of the songs to come out of that class, “Oceans,” became a track on MisterWives’ 2015 debut album, Our Own House.
The band chose the name MisterWives, a twist on “sister wife,” because Lee is the band’s only female. They have been together since late 2012. Lee met two of her bandmates when she booked an 80s cover band for her birthday. MisterWives was born soon after. The band played their first gig together in New York City’s Canal Room and were later signed to Photo Finish Records.
They went on tour opening for bands like American Authors and released their debut EP Reflections in January 2014. They opened on tours with Bleachers and Twenty One Pilots before finishing Our Own House. Their debut album, written mostly by Lee in a treehouse in Riverdale, New York, was released in February 2015.
Billboard called the album “a debut whose panels are bursting with rock ‘em, sock ‘em action.” It peaked at number 31 on the Billboard charts and Reflections has since racked up more than 57 million streams on Spotify. They’ve played at festivals like Lollapalooza, South by Southwest and Boston Calling. MisterWives is set to bring the excitement to Randall’s Island when they play at Governor’s Ball this June.
I have a deep love of indie and alternative bands, so moving to New York City meant I had my pick of concerts. But almost all the bands I’ve seen have featured exclusively male members. Why wasn’t I making the schlep to the D-train to see more rad ladies in concert? There is not an abundance of female equivalents to bands like Bleachers or WALK THE MOON.
The indie and alternative music genres can feel like a boy’s club. Sure, the pop world is flooded with fantastic solo acts, but where are the front women in bands today? Thankfully, MisterWives and emerging female-led acts like CHVRCHES and PHASES are proving that women can rock any genre. Seeing the girl in the front row nearly cry over her encounter showed Lee’s impact on the lives of many girls (and guys) who want to jam to something a little more angsty and different.
There’s nothing wrong with jamming to the fellas if you feel like those are the tunes that call to your heart. But as a semester of columns about the coolest ladies on the scene today comes to a close, let’s not forget how hard women can rock. Mandy Lee knocked down the misogynists with anthemic bravado and, in the process, made me feel the most empowered I’ve ever felt. It truly matters that women continue to infiltrate these lines of male-dominated music and make themselves just as big of a force in every genre. Women don’t just have to be one thing, send one message, sing one type of song or dress only a certain way. The ideology of womanhood is certainly not static, so let’s support the women unafraid to make alternative noise.